Illinois is known for more than just its contribution to the American automotive industry and underground railway; it is an excellent destination for nature lovers. From the beautiful Chicago skyline to its stunning natural landscapes, Illinois is a great outdoor destination for outdoor lovers, particularly anglers. The Land of Lincoln is a top fishing destination in the Midwest US with a wide range of fishing goals for anglers.
I have been to Illinois but never cast my line in its beautiful waters. The closest I have ever been to the waters is when I managed to kayak at the Mississippi River. The river offers a great kayaking experience, but I also noticed the fishing opportunities available in this state. Plus, the seafood cuisine in the region was incredible; therefore, I had to add the Mississippi River to my bucket list.
Unfortunately, to legally fish in Illinois, you need a valid fishing license and some permits. Other than the Illinois fishing license, you need to know the right time to fish and where to catch your next trophy catch. Therefore, after thorough research, I compiled the following guide on fishing licenses in Illinois. So let’s dive right in.
- Resident fishing license: $15.00
- Resident lifetime fishing license: $435.00
- Non-resident fishing license: $31.50
- 3-day non-resident fishing license: $15.00
- 1-day non-resident sport fishing license: $10.00
- Inland trout stamp: $6.50 (source)
To learn more, here is a link to the Illinois website.
Guide Pro Tip: Download this FREE PDF with the Illinois Fishing Regulations 👉 Illinois Fishing Regulations
Generally, the free fishing days in Illinois coincide with Father’s Day. So the free fishing days in 2023 are between June 18 and 21. During these days, the public waters in this state are open to everyone in Illinois. The Free Fishing days are a great time to test the Illinois waters and even have fun before purchasing a license.
On these days, you can explore even the part of Lake Michigan that’s in Illinois without an inland trout stamp, salmon stamp, or a sport fishing license.
Yes, during the Free Fishing days, the state-operated waters are open to everyone in Illinois, including non-residents.
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Types of Fishing License in Illinois
Like all the American states, Illinois does have a wide range of fishing licenses and stamps for both resident and non-resident anglers. Remember, fishing without the correct fishing license and stamps is illegal, and if caught, you may pay a hefty fine. Therefore, you must know that Illinois has a wide range of licenses that vary with duration, function, age of the angler, and place of residents.
Illinois has several licenses for residents and non-residents; unfortunately, the latter always pay more. Therefore you must know precisely what you need before making a purchase. Please read on for more details on the different types of fishing licenses.
If you love the Illinois waters and enjoy fishing every weekend or when you have some free time, then you should go for the annual fishing license. Unlike most licenses, this option lets you fish for an entire year and access all the public water bodies in Illinois. The state has an annual license for residents and non-residents that varies in price.
But to access the salmon at Lake Michigan and the inland trout, you may need to get their respective stamps together with your license.
For residents, the Department of Natural Resources has a lifetime fishing license. Therefore, if you plan to go fishing in Illinois for several years, you should get a lifetime license. This license lets you explore all the water bodies in Illinois for as long as you’re alive. But you may have to purchase salmon or trout stamps every year.
Unfortunately, they don’t have a lifetime fishing license for non-residents. You can only apply for it online and wait for their response.
The state does have a package for anglers planning on fishing for a few days in Illinois. So instead of getting an annual option, you can purchase a short-term license valid for a few days. The state has a 24-hour license for residents that you can buy every morning before hitting the waters.
Non-residents have a 1-day sport fishing license that lets you fish and hunt for 24 hours. But if you plan on fishing only, you should go for the 3-day non-resident fishing license available at the vendor’s places and online.
This stamp is ideal for all the waters in Illinois except Lake Michigan. Anglers must possess a trout stamp before being allowed to fish. Unfortunately, the price of these stamps varies with age. The cost of the trout stamps is as follows:
- Annual trout stamp for residents and non-residents: $6.50
- Resident trout stamp for over 75 years old: $0.50
- Resident over 65 years old trout stamp: $6.50
Remember, blind and disabled residents don’t need a trout stamp. The under 16 years old anglers also don’t need a trout stamp.
Unfortunately, the 24-hour fishing licenses don’t have trout fishing privileges, so you’ll have to purchase one.
Sport anglers must purchase this stamp before being allowed to harvest trout and salmon from Michigan Lake. The cost of these trout stamps includes the following:
- Resident over 65 years old: $6.50
- Annual salmon stamp for non-residents and residents: $6.50
- For residents over 75 years old, salmon stamp: $0.50
Fortunately, the youth under 16 years old and the resident (blind and disabled) can fish without this permit.
|Fishing license (over 16 years)||$15.00||$31.50|
|3-day fishing license||N/A||$15.50|
|1-day sport fishing license||$5.50||$10.50|
|senior fishing license (over 65 years)||$7.50||N/A|
|Senior sportsmen’s Combo fishing/hunting license (over 65 years)||$2.50||N/A|
|Sportsmen’s combo fishing/hunting license||$26.25||N/A|
|A super senior inland trout stamp||$0.50||N/A|
|Super senior Lake Michigan salmon stamp combo||$0.50||N/A|
|An electronic inland trout stamp||$6.50||$6.50|
|Electronic Lake Michigan Salmon stamp||$6.50||$6.50|
As aforementioned, a fishing license is mandatory when casting your line in state-operated waters. Being found without one can result in a hefty fine. Fortunately, there are ways you can purchase a license, with the most popular one being online. To buy a fishing license online, you need to click here. Next, create an account and then log in for the first time.
If you already have an account, you can log in, pick the correct fishing license and stamp, and check out. Finally, you can pay for the license using your Visa or MasterCard, print your license, and you’re good to go. Remember, you must present your license in all the public fishing destinations in this state.
If you can’t get it online, you can purchase it from hundreds of authorized vendors in Illinois. You can search for the agent’s location using their name by clicking here. You can get the agent near your home and their contacts using this link.
With the contacts and the location of the authorized vendor, all you have to do is call them and find out if they have opened their stores and then go and purchase your license. Remember, you may have to pay the processing and printing fee at the agent’s location. But you can get any license from these authorized agents except the lifetime fishing licenses.
Generally, the price of the fishing licenses at Walmart matches the price on the Natural Resources Department’s official website. All you have to do is walk into the Walmart stores in Illinois, go to the sporting goods section, and purchase a license.
Casting your line without a license is illegal in Illinois, but did you know that there are several regulations that we have to adhere to when fishing here? Generally, every water body has unique rules and regulations that every angler must follow. And if you break any of these rules, you may have to pay a hefty fine or even be banned from fishing in Illinois.
Fortunately, this document is readily available, and you can get it through this link and download it. The fishing regulation document will show you the proper fishing methods and where to fish at a specific time. It will also indicate the possession limit of certain species. So make sure you go through it before leaving your home.
Guide Pro Tip: Download this FREE PDF with the Illinois Fishing Regulations 👉 Illinois Fishing Regulations
Generally, anyone over 16 years old, both residents and non-residents, needs a license to fish in the public water bodies in Illinois. The state even has trout and salmon stamps for senior anglers over 75 years old.
All the fishing permits in Illinois expire the following year on March 31. (source) So, if you want to use a license for about 365 days a year, you should purchase your permit on April 1. On the other hand, short-term licenses have stipulated deadlines, with 24-hour licenses lasting for a day.
Other than free fishing days, all adults over 16 need a fishing license to explore public fishing spots throughout the state. Fortunately, some anglers don’t need a permit to fish in this state. Some of these anglers include:
- Resident active military personnel
- Disabled anglers
- Blind anglers
- Anglers below 16 years old
As long as you’re a guest, owner, or the owner’s family member, you won’t ever need a fishing permit or stamp to fish on the pond located on private land. You can fish without a license if there are no stream outlets or inlets.
Exploring the water bodies without a permit is classified under Class A Misdemeanor. So if caught, you can end up paying a fine of about $2,500 or serve a jail term of about 364 days. In the worst-case scenario, you may lose your fishing privileges for five years. (source)
If you have already gone through Illinois’ fishing regulations, you know that general fishing is open for 365 days. You already know that some of the most popular species have unique fishing seasons, which means they have closed seasons. Therefore, you should know when to visit Illinois if you’re chasing a certain trophy fish.
Some of the best fishing seasons that every angler must know include:
For trophy trout anglers, Illinois has some of the best trout lakes in the region. Some of the best places for trout fishing include Silver Lake, Lake Michigan, Lake Strini, and Miller Park Lake, among others. And the best time to fish trout is in April when they’re more active. Trout are tricky in early spring, and the best time to catch larger fish, with the average size being between 6 and 18 lbs, is in April.
Another time to go for Lake trout is between mid-August and October when fall is starting while summer is winding down. This season offers an excellent option for catching large Lake Trout as they return to nearshore and offshore structures.
Another species that can be pretty popular in April is the Coho Salmon, with the best place being Michigan Lake. The state average for Coho salmons is between 10 and 12 lbs, while the record set in 1972 is a 20 lbs fish. Unfortunately, the possession limit is between 20 and 30 species, with the maximum carrying weight being 6 lbs. The best time for fishing Coho Salmon is between May and June.
Another salmon species that you can find in Michigan Lake is King Salmon. Illinois is known for some of the largest fish catches in the US, with the state record being about 37 lbs. While there are several species in Illinois, most folks prefer the taste of King Salmon. So if you plan to fish in Illinois for the king salmon, you should visit the region between late June and August.
|Fishing season||Opening date||Closing date|
|General fishing season||January 1||December 31|
|Chinook Salmon||Late June||August|
Situated in the Great Lake Region, Illinois has more than enough to guarantee you a fantastic fishing trip. After all, it is home to over 84,000 ponds and 2,900 lakes occupied by a wide range of fish species. (source) So whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’re guaranteed a fishing spot in this state.
Remember, the Great Lake region does have some of the best fishing destinations on the continent. So here are some of the best fishing spots in Illinois,
From Illinois, you can access the second-largest Great Lake in North America. The best fishing spot in Illinois is the 11 harbor in Chicago. This lake offers around 1,600 miles of accessible shoreline. Besides the Chicago harbor, you can access its shorelines from Winthrop, Winnetka, Wilmette, and Waukegan harbors.
Reelers can enjoy kayaking or boating on this lake at a top speed of 55 MPH, which is perfect for anglers. Plus, it’s accessible all year round; it offers the best ice fishing experience in Illinois. The best thing about this lake is that it hosts many fish species. You have a high likelihood of catching every fish species in North America. Lake Michigan’s most common species include Northern pike, salmon, walleye, steelhead, and trout.
Another popular destination that stretches along the western parts of Illinois is the Mississippi River. And the best place to fish in this state is near Savanna. You can also follow them to the backwaters and catch some walleyes near the dam, particularly during spring.
You can catch bluegill, crappie, and bass in spring. You can catch bass along the current edges and sharp breaks as it cools down. If you love winter fishing, then you can chase saugeye and walleyes along the river in places that aren’t frozen.
This lake is the best option for anglers who love fishing the muskie. Therefore, you should fish here in September, particularly after the second winter’s cold snap. Fortunately, this lake has two boat ramps with several vessels for hire. And if you love fishing from the shores, you have over 6.5 miles of shoreline to explore.
For more deets on where to fish in Illinois, follow this link.
Yes, but some places let you fish an hour after sunset while some let you have fun until 11.00 PM But, some areas allow you to fish for an entire night, so you have to be well prepared for the cold night weather. Therefore proper gear is mandatory, and ensure your vessel is well-lit for better visibility without scaring the fish away.
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- Department of Natural Resources staff, Fishing License, https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/lpr/pages/fishinglicensesfees.aspx/ accessed February 17, 2023.
- Illinois fishing 2023 regulation information, https://www.ifishillinois.org/regulations/FishingDigest.pdf/ Accessed February 17, 2023.
- Department of Natural Resources staff, Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.ifishillinois.org/FAQS/ Accessed February 17, 2023.
- Revocations/suspensions for violation, https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/hunting/documents/revocationssuspensionsforviolations.pdf/ Accessed February 17, 2023.
- Department of Natural Resources staff, Lakes, ponds and reservoirs, https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/education/Pages/CDHabitatLakesPonds.aspx/ Accessed February 17, 2023.
- Erica Abdnour, Cast away: the best fishing spots in Illinois, https://www.enjoyillinois.com/travel-illinois/the-best-fishing-spots-in-illinois/ Accessed February 17, 2023.